PETITION THE WHITE HOUSE: FACES OF A DEMONSTRATION
Note from the author: I wrote this article with the hope of shedding some light on how a demonstration works or how to get your voices heard in Washington, D.C, as well as bringing some attention on the human rights issues in Vietnam that I was advocating for while I was there. I am not writing this article on behalf of any organization or to preach my political view to anyone, this is a photography blog after all. That said, I am not exactly playing a role of a reporter, I was there to advocate for human rights in Vietnam, and not to simply record it. However, photographers have always used their photos to tell countless stories through out history and this is no different. Hope you guys enjoy the photos and perhaps learn a thing or two. Also, if anyone say that all Asian people look alike after seeing all the photos in this article, I will personally filed all the paper work necessary to deport you from the United States of America, whether or not you are a U.S citizen ( I can always argue that your actions make you un-American :))
PETITION THE WHITE HOUSE: FACES OF A DEMONSTRATION
By: Hoan K. Trinh
For some, especially the younger generation of the internet age, demonstrations and protests could be quite mysterious. Some view demonstrations as something you only hear on the news of those who cared too much about society. For others, they considered demonstrators and protestors extremists. I believe that it is safe to say that most people my age or younger (26) have not been to many demonstrations or protests. I, myself, have never been to many demonstrations, the one that I am going to tell you about is only the second demonstration I have been to in years. I certainly have never been to a demonstration of this scale either.
I am writing this article not only shed light on the issue that I care about, but also to give an inside view behind this particular demonstration. Oh, and being a photographer does help a bit in this kind of situation.
I recently had a chance to join the Vietnamese communities from all over the United States in Washington D.C to shed light on human rights violations in Vietnam. We also had a chance to advocate for an American foreign policy that would alleviate the human rights issues in Vietnam to our representatives and senators the following day. This whole scenario started with the arrest of a song writer, Viet Khang, who composed two songs that are considered to be questionable by the Vietnamese government. The Vietnamese American communities banded together and started a petition to the White House regarding the issue of Viet Khang, and with over a hundred thousand signatures in a very short amount of time, the Obama administration agreed to meet with leaders from the Vietnamese American community to discuss the issue of human rights in Vietnam as laid out in the petition. You can find out more about the petition here:
This trip could be broken down into two separate and distinct tasks: demonstrating in the front of the White House to lend our support to the Vietnamese American leaders inside the White House and to meet and greet with the senators from our own state to bring their attention to the issues on the following day.
This is part of our delegation from Connecticut. All of us crammed into a van for the 7 hour trip. In D.C, we met delegations from states from all over the U.S. One of the largest delegations actually came from Massachusetts with just about 100 people coming down in two chartered bus.
Arriving at the hotel in Washington DC on Sunday. You don’t see this kind of scene often, even in a hotel.
Normally, it is not easy to find three random Vietnamese men sitting around a table, but this particular weekend, it was quite easy.
Cherry blossom in Washington, D.C came a little early this year.
Meeting people from other areas.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang of BPSOS, one of the organizer of the event spoke to everyone with regard to the goals as well as the protocol of our demonstrations and advocacy on Monday and Tuesday. Yes, this is one crowded room.
Question and answer session.
Tuyet Duong, an Advisor on Civil Rights and Immigration for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders gave us some tips here and there about the protocol at the White House.
Some last minute details on Sunday night.
Monday morning, people from our Connecticut delegation getting ready to go to the White House for a demonstration to show our support for human rights in Vietnam.
I met Lam Thuy Van at the hotel. She’s one of the singer for Asia Entertainment. It is kind of surreal to finally meet someone that you have seen on TV for a long time. It is also funny that that you know who she is but she does not have a clue who you are.
Finally, a photo of Viet Khang, the song writer who got all of this started. This is the rendezvous point for the demonstrators to be pick up by buses to go to the White House.
Of the two demonstrations that I have been, there were always a lot of singing. Now that this demonstration is for Viet Khang, who is a singer/songwriter, well, you need to do a lot of singing.
Me and my friend Quan, from Connecticut posed for a photo with the son of general Le Minh Dao who also reside in Connecticut. Photo by chu Hien.
Women of the demonstration, for some strange reason, I find that Vietnamese women are probably more active than the men when it come to politic. At least, when it come to doing something about it. Us men like to talk about politic more 🙂
Unfortunately, we did not find to many Vietnamese youth at the demonstration, he’s one of the few.
Boarding the school bus to go the White House for the demonstration. Sitting 3 to a bench, the bus have the maximum capacity of 72. We had 67 people crammed into this particular vehicle.
More bus picture…I have not been on a school bus since 2003, brought back memories 🙂
Chu Trinh, who is also from Connecticut but he came down separately, joined us on the bus to the White House.
Vietnamese American for sure 🙂
“Free Viet Khang”
This is not Viet Khang 🙂 People were always so please to have their photo taken, I was in a photography heaven.
The Vietnamese community from Illinois also made the trip to Washington, D.C.
There was actually another protest infront of the White House that was there before us. I am not entirely sure what this particular protest was about but they kept saying “Down, down, down with the state of Israel”. Only then did I realize that the Prime Minister of Israel was also there that day.
This particular guy was arguing with the Jewish protesters from the photo above, got mad, went out and got an Israeli flag. Someone gave him the Vietnamese flag to wave too, I thought that was funny.
Viet Khang isn’t the only dissentent currently in prison, he is just one of the more popular ones because of his songs.
Another Viet Khang sign, that tape doesn’t look like it’s much fun.
This is essentially sponsored street photography. I just took the photo and then smile at them afterward.
This is delegation from the Vietnamese American community in Georgia. We drove 7 hours to get to D.C, it must have been worst for these guys, yet they still have quite a crowd.
A beautiful face in the crowd. The title of this article is Faces Of A Demonstration, remember?
While it is often said among our circles that this fight for Vietnam is really a fight for the youth since it is their future, it is encouraging to see the older generation putting up with the cold weather, travelling, and the inconveniences to come out and support a cause they believe in.
Probably one of my favorite images from this demonstration on behalf of Viet Khang. The lady looks extremely peaceful through out the whole thing, yet she’s among the demonstrators. Truly one of the bright face of the demonstration.
These people are not as quiet as the lady above but nothing too wild happened.
Another young face in the crowd.
Cao Dai disciples in their traditional white garment at the demonstration. The lady is 94 years old, amazing courage!
I did not have a chance to speak with him but I am sure he must have sacrifice a lot to be there with everyone else.
Overall, I have to say everyone was quite well dressed for this demonstration.
Colorado to D.C is quite a long trip, that alone was impressive.
Another young face among the demonstrators.
There is also another demonstration against the bombing of Iran while I was there, this is actually quite a fun demonstration to watch, very creative I must say. Remember, the Prime Minister of Israel was also there on that day, March 05,2012.
The police simply walked through a crowd of demonstrators, I don’t know why they came out in the first place.
Back to the Vietnamese demonstrators, Truc Ho, one of the prominent leaders in the Vietnamese American community spoke to an energetic crowd after he left the White House.
Capitol South Station, this is the metro station to Congress. If you are in D.C and want to go to Congress, remember Capitol South!
Back in the hotel, I too, was a demonstrator so here is my face for you. For all the photography geeks out there, all the photos in this article were taken with the 35mm f1.8 lens on a Nikon D90. It’s a very versatile set up.
Tuesday, Vietnamese American from various part of the United States approaching the capital to speak with their senators and representatives regarding the human right issues in Vietnam.
A Vietnamese American woman wearing her traditional Vietnamese garment outside of one of the office buildings, getting ready to speak with senators and representatives from her state regarding human right violations in Vietnam and how American foreign policy could help the situation.
After a long day of hustling between offices of different senators and representatives, a young lady sat by the stairwell playing with her phone while my friend from the Connecticut delegation walked past.
Wrapping up, the last session was held in one of the conference rooms in the office building of the House of Representative. We discussed what we did wrong, right, what could be improved. Overall, everyone was very thrill with the number of people that show up for the event.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) came to speak with the Vietnamese American communities from all over the U.S on the issue of Viet Khang and human rights in Vietnam.
You can see his speech below:
And if anyone wonder why it’s a good idea to have a video recording ability in DSLR, well, this is not a bad example, you want to be able to record someone’s speech since the message itself will be more important than the image.
I am also into cars and stuff so I just thought it was quite interesting to find a Castro GTX motor oil box in an office setting. It was actually used for the purpose of carrying….food!
Everyone must have been tired, I know I was. We did not have much to eat or drink for the few days that we were there. The logistic of a demonstration is often nothing more than a controlled disaster. I slept for about 4 hour a day, skip (real) lunch and did not have much to drink during the day. so yeah, I am sure it was tough on everyone. I am sure it is much tougher for those activists that we are fighting on behalf of, however.
On the bus to back to Connecticut. Yes, my friend, Quan and I came down in a van, but decided to come back on a bus with the people from Boston instead. I saw the odometer on this bus, and it has like 713,xxx miles on it. Yes, that’s a lot of miles. I wonder how many of these chartered buses came into Washington D.C for this particular demonstration?? I know the people from Boston alone had two, I saw another one from Georgia. But yeah, the people in the demonstration don’t come out of no where, and most of them do not live in Washington D.C. People from various Vietnamese American communities put together a van load or a bus load of demonstrators at a time and you can have a very respectable demonstration even though the Vietnamese American community is not particular large in the United States.
P.S: For anyone still reading, I will make my photos from the demonstration available for you guys to download on my website (listed under the byline above) within a couple of days. The number of photos that I will make available will actually be a bit more than what you are currently seeing on the blog. Be sure to check the website within a couple of days if you want to download the photos.
UPDATE: The photos are available to download here: http://hktphotography.zenfolio.com/p369737362
I had a lot of fun capturing these images and I hope I contributed something to the Vietnamese American community by providing some memories of this historic event. I hope that all the subjects in my photos had a chance to see their photographs.